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Hanging tough: Laurence Manning battles Hammond before Skyhawks pull away for 49-21 state title win

By J. SCOTT SEWELL
jscott@theitem.com
Posted 11/23/19

COLUMBIA -- While the game may have taken place in Hammond's backyard, Benedict College's Charles W. Johnson Stadium felt a whole lot like Laurence Manning Academy's Billy Chitwood Field on Friday.

The Skyhawks won yet another SCISA 3A title, …

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Hanging tough: Laurence Manning battles Hammond before Skyhawks pull away for 49-21 state title win

Posted

COLUMBIA -- While the game may have taken place in Hammond's backyard, Benedict College's Charles W. Johnson Stadium felt a whole lot like Laurence Manning Academy's Billy Chitwood Field on Friday.

The Skyhawks won yet another SCISA 3A title, beating LMA 49-21 behind a late 28-0 run in the third and fourth quarters, but they did it in front of a massive crowd of Swampcat fans who made the 1-hour, 30-minute, long drive to Columbia.

Those fans were treated to quite the show.

"That was probably the best team in SCISA history, and we were toe to toe with them for the majority of the game," said Laurence Manning head coach Austin Floyd. "We fought our tails off. Obviously we want to win the game, but I've been saying all week that I just want us to come out and give effort and play hard for all four quarters, and we did that. And it wasn't enough, and I'll be fine with that."

It took Hammond, which won its third straight state title and the 11th under head coach Erik Kimrey, just 18 seconds to grab the lead, scoring on a double-reverse touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jackson Muschamp to sophomore running back Caper Stokes III on the first play from scrimmage to give the Skyhawks an early 7-0 lead.

Hammond added to its lead later in the quarter when senior running back/defensive end Jordan Burch scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns to make it 13-0.

The Swampcats answered late in the second quarter though when senior quarterback Burgess Jordan found senior running back Wyatt Rowland wide open in the middle of the field for a 27-yard touchdown pass, cutting the lead to 13-7.

Hammond managed to sneak in one last score before the half on the second of Burch's two touchdowns to give the Skyhawks a 21-7 lead at halftime.

The second half started off much the same as the first half, except this time it was LMA with the quick score.

Rowland returned the opening kickoff 88 yards to the end zone, closing the deficit to just 21-13.

"It was electric," said LMA head coach Austin Floyd whose team finished the year with a 12-2 record. "Our kids were believing."

That's when Hammond started its run. First it was a 46-yard touchdown pass from Muschamp to senior wide receiver Andre Wilson. Wilson caught a short pass and then streaked down the sideline, making defenders miss as he crossed the goal line. Stokes added his second touchdown of the game three minutes later, and Bradley Dunn scored on the first play of the fourth quarter.

"We moved the ball well at times, but we just couldn't finish drives and then we missed a couple open receivers," said Floyd. "You gotta play perfect when you play a team like this. It sucks, but I'm super proud of our guys and the way they've played all year."

What was once a 21-13 nail biter was suddenly 42-13 with just 11:56 remaining in the game. .

The Swampcats scored one final time late in the fourth quarter, with Rowland finding the end zone for this third touchdown of the game and the final touchdown of his illustrious career. He finished with over 100 yards rushing while scoring a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown, and a kickoff return for a touchdown.

"Wyatt is what you want to coach," said Floyd. "He makes it easy. You don't have to worry about where he's going to be at when practice starts. You don't have to worry about his mindset. He's the SCISA 3A Offensive Player of the Year for a reason. He's an awesome player and a better teammate. Whatever he chooses to do in life he's going to be extremely successful because of his work ethic."

The Swampcats put the finishing touches on a stunning turnaround, after finishing just 6-5 last year. Floyd, in his first year as a head coach, helped propel the team tantalizingly close to a state title.

"When it's 21-13 you can taste it," said Floyd. "Sometimes you play your best, and it's not enough. They {Hammond) have a great staff , awesome coaches, and awesome players, and we want to get back here and eventually win this game."